When we were in school, we were always taught that before we start designing and trying to solve the program and we had to have at least three approaches. In design school, we call these "approaches" Design Concepts or Parti'.
I have found that in my profession, many architects start thier projects without any design concepts. What blows my mind is that how does a designer go through conceptual design without a design concept. During the phase of conceptual design, we are to set boundaries, rules, and guidlines as to what the design wants to be. These all are established on what the parti' is to be. Once we have a concept, it is really easy to continue the rest of the project, to design it, and make fast and quick decision based on our concept. When designers can make quick decisions and create a "tight" design, it allows for fewer mistakes to happen later on in other phases of the project.
It blows my mind when I see designer so deep into a project, submitting deadlines without clearing the intrensic fundamental of design - the concept. How is that even possible? Did somewhere along the line of fast money and decision making, we deleted the C-O-N-C-E-P-T? It got erased so fast that it became a void. Almost like a null that later when others ask how you came up with the design, there is no cogent reply except a black hole?
A design concept for a designer is equivalent to a scientific thesis. A scientist clearly states his thesis on an experiement and just focuses on that specific experiment. So if the scientist is solely working on a scientific technological break through, like the iPhone, he is not going to discuss Dolly the sheep that was a cloning experiment. This analogy should be articulated for designers as well. Everything that we do should have at least two good reasons behind it. Those decisions should be based on the original concept. That concept is to be so strong, that the outcome is a phenomenally designed space. A visitor is to feel that energy articulated in the design allowing all the pieces to come together as a whole, creating architecture that resonates within the lanscape.